The first Jackie Robinson Day was observed on April 15, 2004, a historical start to an annual tradition throughout Major League Baseball and an inspirational reminder about what happened on that day exactly fifty-seven years earlier, when one baseball player took the field and changed the world.
To honor the enduring impact of Jackie Robinson and his legacy, Major League Baseball has established April 15 as "Jackie Robinson Day" throughout the Major Leagues, it was announced today.
Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig made the announcement with Sharon Robinson, daughter of Rachel and Jackie Robinson, and former National League President Leonard C. Coleman, the Chairman of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
The announcement further honors Robinson's legacy by establishing April 15 as a day each year when every Major League Baseball Club will recognize the important social contributions Robinson made to our country. Jackie Robinson Day is one of the first programs to result from The Commissioner's Initiative: Major League Baseball in the 21st Century. The Commissioner's Initiative, which was formed last year, has been charged with examining the current state of Major League Baseball and determining ways to improve it for the fans.
"I have often stated that baseball's proudest moment and its most powerful social statement came on April 15, 1947 when Jackie Robinson first set foot on a Major League Baseball field," said Selig. "On that day, Jackie brought down the color barrier and ushered in the era in which baseball became the true national pastime. Fifty years after that historic event, in April 1997, I was proud to join Rachel Robinson and President Bill Clinton at Shea Stadium to honor Jackie by retiring his uniform number 42 in perpetuity. By establishing April 15 as 'Jackie Robinson Day' throughout Major League Baseball, we are further ensuring that the incredible contributions and sacrifices he made -- for baseball and society -- will not be forgotten."
"On behalf of our family and the Jackie Robinson Foundation, I would like to extend my thanks to Major League Baseball for creating an event that ensures Jackie's legacy will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of each new generation of Major League Baseball players and fans," said Rachel Robinson, wife of Jackie Robinson and Founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. "April 15, 1947 was a day of great significance, not only for Major League Baseball, but in the fight for equality in this country. It is only fitting that the anniversary of this groundbreaking event should become a day for celebration and reflection at Major League ballparks."
On April 15, 1947, Robinson became the first African American player in Major League Baseball, shattering a barrier that had kept players of color from playing in the Major Leagues for more than half a century. Robinson's courageous act opened the door for others, and by the late 1950s every Major League Baseball team had players of African and/or Latin descent. In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Robinson breaking the Major League color barrier, Robinson's uniform number 42 was retired throughout the Major Leagues.
As part of Jackie Robinson Day 2004, special pre-game ceremonies are being planned for each ballpark hosting a game on April 15. Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to each game. Other details about Jackie Robinson Day events -- including a national celebration planned for Shea Stadium in New York that will air on MLB rightsholder TBS -- will be announced later this month.
In 2005, Commissioner Selig officially declared that every single April 15th would be Jackie Robinson Day, and each team would celebrate it on that day during the regular season. A year later, Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow, was honored in an on-field ceremony in Shea Stadium, and a large 42 cover was added to the home plate.
During the 2007 regular season, Ken Griffey, Jr. called baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and asked for permission to wear number 42, which had been retired for every team by Major League Baseball in a moving ceremony which took place in 1997, on Jackie Robinson Day. Selig embraced the gesture and encouraged other clubs to have a player wear number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day as well.
Teams from both leagues ran with the idea and outfitted multiple players, and in some cases, the entire roster, with number 42. Baseball Almanac is pleased to present a comprehensive list of players & coaches who wore number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day (2007).
The "hand-selected" format ended in 2008, when every player, manager and coach took the field wearing number 42, a practice that remains in place through 2019.
"It's bigger than just a number. This is American history. I might be going out on a limb, but I see so much emphasis on it the last couple of weeks about Jackie Robinson. . . . He opened the doors for everybody in baseball. If it wasn't for him, there wouldn't be a lot of the great storylines you see in baseball today. I hope they continue to have that intensity to remember Jackie Robinson at all times." - Florida Marlins Pitcher Dontrelle Willis on MLB.com (Mark Newman, 04/16/2007)
Jackie Robinson Day Official Logo
Players Who Wore Number 42 on April 15, 2007
Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. in association with the Jackie Robinson Foundation ran full page ads in several publications and on ESPN which included the following caption (which in our opinion was probably the best they've produced in respect to a promotional event):
AND A FRIEND.
HALL OF FAME
WAS THE EASY PART.
Besides the players seen above, a few coaches and managers wore number 42 including: Harold Baines (Chicago White Sox First Base Coach), Mickey Brantley (Toronto Blue Jays Hitting Coach), Lloyd McClendon (Detroit Tigers Hitting Coach), Bob Melvin (Arizona Diamondbacks Manager), Willie Randolph (New York Mets Manager), Lee Tinsley (Arizona Diamondbacks First Base Coach), Tye Waller (Oakland Athletics First Base Coach), Ron Washington (Texas Rangers Manager) & Jerry White (Minnesota Twins First Base Coach).